THE COMMONS – PUBLIC GOOD 7-2022 “The Blue Commons: Rescuing the Economy of the Sea ” by Guy Standing

‘A landmark book… The Blue Commons is at once a brilliant synthesis, a searing analysis, and an inspiring call to action.’ – David Bollier

‘With remarkable erudition, passion and lyricism, Guy Standing commands the reader to wake up to the threat posed by rentier capitalism’s violent policies for extraction, exploitation and depletion of that which is both common to us all, but also vital to our survival: the sea and all within it.’ – Ann Pettifor

‘Shines a bright light on the economy of the oceans, directing us brilliantly towards where a sustainable future lies.’ – Danny Dorling

‘This is a powerful, visionary book – essential reading for all who yearn for a better world.’ – Jason Hickel

The sea provides more than half the oxygen we breathe, food for billions of people and livelihoods for hundreds of millions. But giant corporations are plundering the world’s oceans, aided by global finance and complicit states, following the neoliberal maxim of Blue Growth. The situation is dire: rampant exploitation and corruption now drive all aspects of the ocean economy, destroying communities, intensifying inequalities, and driving fish populations and other ocean life towards extinction.

The Blue Commons is an urgent call for change, from a campaigning economist responsible for some of the most innovative solutions to inequality of recent times. From large nations bullying smaller nations into giving up eco-friendly fishing policies to the profiteering by the Crown Estate in commandeering much of the British seabed, the scale of the global problem is synthesised here for the first time, as well as a toolkit for all of us to rise up and tackle it.

The oceans have been left out of calls for a Green New Deal but must be at the centre of the fight against climate change. How do we do it? By building a Blue Commons alternative: a transformative worldview and new set of proposals that prioritise the historic rights of local communities, the wellbeing of all people and, with it, the health of our oceans.


“The commons as a legal concept stems from ancient Roman law, and specifically the Justinian Codex of AD 529–34. A Byzantine by birth, Justinian became Roman Emperor in AD 527 and, finding the laws confusing and incoherent, set up a commission of jurists to codify them. The AD 529 Codex has been lost, but a version from AD 534 has shaped common law for nearly 1,500 years. Among its achievements was the definition of four types of property – res privatae (private thing/matter), res publicae (public thing/matter), res nullius (nobody’s thing/matter) and res communis (common thing/matter). The last category is often expressed as res communes omnium (things belonging to all).”

“Alongside the Codex, a textbook for law students produced in AD 533 contained the following much-cited passage that was articulated hundreds of years earlier by the classical jurist Marcian in the early second century AD. As a result, Marcian has often been called the founder of the common law of the sea: For certain things are common to all by the law of nature, certain things are public, certain belong to an entire body [of the people], certain to no one, many things to individuals, which are acquired by each person in different ways … And, in fact, the following items are common to all persons through natural law: the air, and flowing water, and the sea, and through this the shores of the sea.1 Fourteen centuries later, in his Mare Liberum (The Free Sea, sometimes translated as The Freedom of the Seas), which became a standard reference for debates on property rights in the sea, Dutch lawyer Hugo Grotius echoed this theme in stating emphatically, ‘Nature knows no sovereigns.’ He was writing in 1609, at a time of mercantilist states that, led by his own country, the Netherlands, and Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, were battling for”

“In 1804, the seventh Earl of Lauderdale, an amateur political economist, wrote a perceptive essay in which he observed that as private riches increased, public wealth declined. This has been dubbed the Lauderdale Paradox. As the rich enriched themselves by taking ever more from what had been the commons, they effectively restricted supply and created ‘contrived scarcity’ of what had previously been abundant, free and accessible to all. Restricting supply pushed up prices of these newly generated commodities, which could then be sold for private gain. Those living in the commons were depicted as holding back ‘progress’. What commoners had for centuries regarded as nature’s bounties, to be conserved and reproduced, to be cherished and nourished, were seen as resources for economic growth, for progress.”

“The nineteenth century saw US courts rationalizing private property rights in nature by citing the so-called ‘law of nature’ derived from the philosophical father of private property rights, John Locke. Writing in the seventeenth century as capitalism took shape, he had argued that the earth – ‘God’s Commons’ – was given to man with the obligation to appropriate it for the fulfilment of his needs and desires. Ferae naturae (wild nature) became the property of man if he exerted labour to obtain it. Henceforth, ‘possession’ became synonymous with private property.”

“The third cod war gave further impetus to global acceptance of the principle of national sovereignty over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles from the coast. Enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, this can be described as the greatest single act of enclosure in the history of the world, covering about a third of the world’s oceans.” netCommons is a Horizon2020 research project, which follows a novel transdisciplinary methodology on treating network infrastructure as commons, for resiliency, sustainability, self-determination, and social integration. Project partners have expertise in engineering, computer science, economics, law, political science, urban, media, and social studies; and close links with successful Community Networks like,, and

GMpage/article 2020 the challenge of reclaiming the commons from capitalism – Dirk Philipsen 9-2020 Is data nonrivalrous? Will Rinehart

A recent paper published in the American Economic Review has reignited interest in data property rights. In “Nonrivalry and the Economics of Data,” economists Charles I. Jones and Christopher Tonetti generate insights on data property regimes by beginning first with a simple model of data. After articulating the idea within a model of the economy, the authors can conclude, “Giving data property rights to consumers can generate allocations that are close to optimal.” These conclusions hinge on how the authors define both data and rivalry.

Jones and Tonetti are upfront in their goals in that the “paper develops a theoretical framework to study the economics of data.” Continuing, they write, “the starting point for our analysis is the observation that data is nonrival. That is, at a technological level, data is infinitely usable.”

The concept of rivalrous goods was first laid out by Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom in a book chapter titled, “Public Goods and Public Choices.” Previous to this work, economists like Samuelson and Musgrave emphasized exclusion. Where individuals could be excluded from using a good, those goods were considered private goods, while everything else was considered a public good. Radio and TV stations were the classic examples used to understand these public goods.

The Ostroms added another dimension to public goods by introducing the concept of subtractability. Now often referred to as rivalry, subtractability describes goods where one person’s use subtracts from or prevents the use of that good by another. The following two by two square that resulted from the Ostrom’s work is a common method of understanding goods today.

Source: Living Economics

The ultimate aim of the Ostroms was to cleave public goods into two parts to study their differences. Non-rivalrous public goods like over-the-air TV were bifurcated from their rivalrous common pool counterparts like fisheries and access to water supplies. Elinor Ostrom ultimately received the Nobel in economics for her subsequent work on the governance of common pool resources.

The concept of rivalry has been foundational to information economics, but there are still problems in translation. While the Ostroms used the concept as an organizing principle, Jones and Tonetti built the idea into the core of their economic world. First, they make a distinction between information and data …”           more at

researchgate/gm-pdf 2017 The Foundational economy: The infrastructure of everyday life – by Davide Arcidiacono, Filippo Barbera, Andrew Bowman, John Buchanan

This book originally published in English in 2018 synthesises the collective’s work of the previous five years in developing the foundational approach. It should now be read in conjunction with our The Foundational Approach (2020) guide to current thinking. But the book remains an important source for engaged citizens, active practitioners, and critical academics beyond who want to know more about the foundational economy concept and its relevance to the politics of progressive reform.

The book is relevant to all of Europe and beyond and is available as an accessibly priced paper back in four languages. MUP, publishes in English with German and Italian editions available from Suhrkamp and Einaudi. The Portuguese edition was published by Actual Editora and Dutch and Turkish translations are pending. Before you buy the book, do read our introductory chapter on this web site which explains the argument of the book here.